…APNU+AFC’s Mahipaul says National Recount riddled with illegalities
NOT only was the National Recount illegal but it was conducted in an illegal manner when the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) took it upon itself to count and validate ballots deemed as spoiled for more than half of the process.
This was highlighted by former APNU+AFC Counting Agent during the National Recount, Ganesh Mahipaul, at an interview with radio 104.1 Guyana Lite FM on Monday. Mahipaul said that while some politicians are seeking to uphold the National Recount as legitimate, Guyana’s apex Court has already picked it apart for being “in tension” with the Constitution while other acts during the process, under the Elections Commission’s watch, have also rendered it illegal.
In telling of some of the wrongdoings that took place during the recount that many have overlooked, Mahipaul explained that one of the ways a ballot paper is deemed spoiled is when an elector makes a mistake that they wish to and can undo. For example, if an elector, in the process of voting, mistakenly places his/her ‘X’ for a political party that he/she had no intention of voting for, the elector can approach the Presiding Officer (PO) for a replacement.
The Presiding Officer, on being satisfied that it was not intentionally done, takes the spoiled ballot from the elector, cancels the counterfoil and ballot paper by writing the word “cancelled” and places the spoiled ballot paper in envelope PE3 marked ‘Spoiled Ballot Paper and Spoiled Tendered Ballot Paper’.
The Presiding Officer then issues a new ballot paper, properly stamped, to the elector and redirects him/her to vote.
However, Mahipaul stated: “What GECOM was doing at the recount [is that] they opened those PE3s, those spoiled ballot papers; they opened them, examined them and counted them and validate them which is illegal in its entirety and they did that from May 6 to May 23.”
The said time period accounts for 17 days out of the 33-day National Recount, more than half of the process.
“What it simply means is that they counted more than one ballot for one person which is not what our elections require. When they recognised it on May 23, then they decided to say that spoiled ballots will not be considered,” the APNU+AFC representative stated.
Mahipaul said that the proof of his remarks can be found in the ‘Basket of Issues’ established by GECOM during the National Recount in which it noted that important changes needed to be made to the means in which they were operating.
“GECOM itself was breaking the rules and they were fixing different, different rules as we were going on with the recount…the Basket of Issues is what they were taking into consideration to deal with problems and that is electoral fraud,” Mahipaul said.
Indeed, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Executive, Anil Nandlall had told media operatives on May 10, during the National Recount: “Some votes that were deemed spoiled votes, when you examined the ballots…they were PPP votes that were unlawfully deemed spoilt.”
Meanwhile, on the same day, GECOM’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Yolanda Ward said: “I’ve been seeing conflicting reports in the press about the need to go to the other envelopes such as those containing spoiled, valid and rejected ballots. So, hence, you now see why there is a critical reason why that is very important; you now have rejected ballots that now become valid. Once the intention is clear, that ballot is valid.”
In an Affidavit in support of the Misenga Jones v The Guyana Elections Commission et al High Court case, Mahipaul told the Court that during the recount exercise, which spanned from May 6 to June 7, 2020, GECOM arrogated unto itself the function and authority to decide on the validity of votes cast at the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
He explained that the Elections Commission developed a string of criteria and standards for the determination of the validity of votes cast which were inconsistent with the requirements of the Representation of the People Act (ROPA).
In his remarks on the radio programme, Mahipaul maintained that the National Recount, as pointed out by Guyana’s apex Court, was flawed and, furthermore, parts of the process were conducted contrary to Elections Law which begs to question the motives of those clamoring to have the results declare upon recount data